Solar-terrestrial indices monitoring utility
Copyright 2013-2015 Giuliano Artico
Dipartimento di Matematica, Università di Padova
Web pageContact the author


1. Introduction

GeoAlert is a small Windows utility which monitors the Kp index (planetary K-index) and produces an alert under appropriate circumstances. Solar-terrestrial indices are indicators of the geomagnetic activity and are related to sunspots present on the photosphere of the Sun. High values of Kp have relevance on polar aurora events and on particular conditions of radio propagation occurring during space storms, so that amateur radio operators are particularly interested in knowing real-time updates of these indices.

Data used for the monitoring are obtained by accessing to the US Dept. of Commerce of NOAA, SWPC (Space Weather Prediction Center), which provides a lot of information and forecasts on phenomena related to solar activity.

2. Download and installation

The program GeoAlert essentially consists of the executable file GeoAlert.exe, which may be placed anywhere in any writable disk unit (e.g., in C:\Program files\GeoAlert, or whatever directory you prefer).
Download the GeoAlert original distribution setup file
Before downloading the setup file, you will be asked to accept the distribution and use license.

The package includes the following files:

The GeoAlert working files (GeoAlert.ini, log files, temporary files) are located in the working folder: To uninstall the program GeoAlert, just remove its folder and the working folder.

3. The monitor mode and the browse mode

You may run the program at the Open box of the Start menu or you may select GeoAlert.exe from the computer resources, no matter what the directory containing the file GeoAlert.exe.

It is convenient to create a shortcut on the desktop and possibly to include suitable parameters in order to supersede default settings. For instance, the Destination item of the shortcut may be set as follows:

%programfiles%\GeoAlert\GeoAlert.exe /m0/v3/n
In the above example, the /m0 option selects the monitor mode, the /V3 option sets the verbosity level to the highest level in order to force current information to be displayed, while /N prevents the update of the initialization file (see details about parameters in the next section).

The program may be run in two modes.

Monitor mode
This is the default mode: its aim is detecting the real-time Kp index and displaying related information, provided suitable conditions occur.
Select this mode by entering the /M0 command-line option.

One may create an item in Windows Scheduled Tasks, that will call GeoAlert at appropriate intervals, say every 60 minutes. In this way, the program will perform a silent monitoring and will issue an alert whenever geomagnetic conditions will exceed a suitable threshold.

Remark. The Kp index is released on a three-hourly basis (at 00, 03, 06,... Universal Time), so that it is not reasonable to define a schedule task which will run at too short intervals.

Browse mode
This mode allows to easily surf detailed information and data available in the NOAA latest data directory. The program allows to select resource names and to display their contents by pressing the following keys:
  • the Up/Down arrows, or Tab/Shift+Tab keys, to select a resource;
  • a letter A through X to directly select a resource, in the order of the resource list;
  • the Return or the Space keys to display the contents of the selected resource: data will be displayed by means of the default editor which is associated to the .txt file type;
  • the F1 key to check whether an update of the program is available;
  • the Esc or the Alt+F4 keys to exit the program.
Select the browse mode by entering the /M1 command-line option.

Remark. In the monitor mode, while the program is displaying current information, you may switch to the browse mode by pressing Return.

4. Settings

All parameters may be assigned via command-line options with the following syntax:
geoalert.exe [options]
Options have the form /X, where X is a case insensitive letter, followed by a number or by two comma separated numbers. The command line may contain any number of options.

The initialization file GeoAlert.ini contains preferences to customize the program behaviour and may be modified with any text editing software. The file starts with the identification label [GEOALERT], which must be exactly preserved. Parameters in the initialization file have the form:

KeyString = value ;comment
The description of parameters follows.
Command-line help
Use the command GeoAlert.exe ? to display the complete option list.
Mode selection
The mode parameter may take the values 0, corresponding to the monitor mode (default), or 1, corresponding to the browse mode. It may be set as follows:
  • with the /M0 or /M1 command-line options respectively.
  • with the KModeSel key-string (in the initialization file). Example:
    KModeSel = 1
Alert thresholds (monitor mode)
Two alert thresholds, related to the Kp index are provided as numbers in the range 1 through 9:
  • h represents the emergency threshold (high-level alert), which defaults to 7, and
  • l represents the attention threshold (low-level alert), which defaults to 5.
The number h must be greater than or equal to l. These values may be set as follows:
  • with the /A[h][,l] command line option followed by one or two comma separated numbers.
    Examples: /A8,6 or /A8 (this only specifies h) or /A,6 (this only specifies l).
  • with the KHiAlert and KLoAlert key-strings respectively. Examples:
    KHiAlert = 8
    KLoAlert = 6
When kp reaches or exceeds the attention threshold, a warning message is issued and a sound effect is played. If the emergency threshold is reached or exceeded a different sound effect is played.
verbosity level (monitor mode)
The verbosity parameter is a number in the range 0 through 3 with the following meaning:
  • value 3: screen with information will always pop-up, whatever values of Kp;
  • value 2 (default): screen will pop-up only when attention threshold will be reached;
  • value 1: screen wil pop-up only when emergency threshold will be reached;
  • value 0: silent mode: no screen output, only sound effects will be played.
The verbosity level may be set as follows:
  • with the /V command-line option followed by a number, e.g. /V3.
  • with the KVerbLev key-string. Example:
    KVerbLev = 3
The verbosity level is ignored when the screen output is redirected. For instance, the command GeoAlert.exe>result.txt always writes result in the specified file result.txt.
Persistence (monitor mode)
Displayed messages persist on the pop-up screen for a time determined by the persistence parameter, which is a time duration expressed in seconds with a default value of 30. The value 0 corresponds to an unbounded duration, so that the pop-up screen is to be manually closed with either Esc or return. Persistence may be assigned as follows:
  • with the /P command-line option, e.g. /p120.
  • with the KPersPopup key-string. Example:
    KPersPopup = 120
Remark. If you have defined a scheduled task running the program GeoAlert, you should set a persistence less than the interval duration of the scheduled task.
Initialization file updating control
All changes made by entering a command-line parameter are automatically stored in the initialization file, unless the /N option is specified: in this case the specified parameters only act during the current program run.
This option has no corresponding key-string in the initialization file.
Information logging
The information caught from NOAA may be saved in the log file geoalert.txt. The parameter which controls log file writing may take the values 0 (don't save information) or 1 (save information, default behaviour). This parameter may be set as follows:
  • with the /L0 or /L1 command-line options.
  • with the KInfoLog key-string. Example:
    KInfoLog = 0
Sound effects control (monitor mode)
The control of sound effects accompanying alert pop-up screen is determined by the parameters v and t.
  • v denotes the volume, expressed as a percentage in the range 0 through 100 with a default value of 25. The volume parameter applies to built-in sound effects, see option /R.
  • t denotes the type of sound to be played: alarm effects (either attention alarm or emergency alarm) and messages in Morse code (CW). The parameter t may assume the following values: 0=none, 1=alarm, 2=CW, 3=both (default).
These parameters may be set as follows:
  • with the /S[v][,t] command-line option.
    Examples: /S40,2 or /S40 (this only specifies v) or /S,2 (this only specifies t)
  • with the KSndVol and KSndType key-strings. Examples:
    KVolSnd  = 30
    KSndType = 2
Remark. All sound effects are suppressed when the screen output is redirected.
Selection of sound effects (monitor mode)
The program includes a small library of 31 sounds, numbered 0 through 30, that may be assigned as sounds n (default 20) and m (default 19) for the emergency alert and for the attention alert respectively, where n and m must be different from each other (to test sound effects use the /T command-line option, e.g. /T or /T9). These parameters may be set as follows:
  • with the /R[n][,m] command-line option.
    Examples: /R9,18 or /R9 (this only specifies n) or /R,18 (this only specifies m)
  • with the KHSndSrc and KLSndSrc key-strings. Examples:
    KHSndSrc = 9
    KLSndSrc = 18
  • Sound effects numbered 23 through 28 refer to standard Windows XP system sounds, according to the correspondence shown in the next table.
    23 chimes.wav
    24 chord.wav
    25 ding.wav
    26 notify.wav
    27 ringin.wav
    28 tada.wav
  • Sound effects numbered 29 and 30 refer to the files attention.wav and emergency.wav included in the GeoAlert setup package.
  • The above wave files may reside either in the %SystemRoot%\media folder or in the program folder or in its sounds subfolder. You may customize alarm sounds by replacing these files with your favorite ones, provided you preserve their names as listed above.
  • The volume parameter (see the /S command-line option) only applies to sounds numbered 0 through 22.
Parameters for Morse code (monitor mode)
When the Kp index value exceeds the emergency threshold, the sound warning is preceeded by a message in Morse code (CW) with the K and the a indices. The code speed s may be adjusted in a range value from 10 through 50, expressed in WPM (Words Per Minute), with a default speed of 20. The tone frequency f ranges from 100 through 5000, expressed in Hz, with a default value of 700. These parameters may be set as follows:
  • with the /C[s],[,f] command-line option.
    Examples: /C30,900., or /C30 (this only specifies s), or /C,900 (this only specifies f).
  • with the KCwSpeed and KCwFreq key-strings. Examples:
    KCwSpeed = 30
    KCwFreq  = 900
Resetting parameters to default
The /0 command-line options resets all parameters to their default values.
This option has no corresponding key-string in the initialization file.
NOAA latest data
The command-line option /latest causes all NOAA latest data to be collected into a single file named geolatest.txt. At the Windows prompt, issue the following command, which is not influenced by any options:
geoalert.exe /latest
NOAA resources
The NOAA Web location of latest resources may be set with the KNoaaLtst key-string in the initialization file as follows (the shown address is in force as of January 2015):
KNoaaLtst =
This key-string has no corresponding command-line option.

5. What's new

  1. The Space Weather Prediction Center revamped its entire website in January 2015. The version 1.1 of GeoAlert reflects the change of the txt resource location by defaulting to the new FTP address. In case of need, the address may be customized by the KNoaaLtst key-string in the initialization file.
  2. In Windows Vista or later, because of the restrictions imposed by the UAC protection, the program can adopt the GeoAlert subfolder of the user document folder as its working folder.

Return to summary.

I3LGP Log Listen GeoAlert HamLinks BlindTech Schedule Contact Home